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Marketing Monday: a 21st Century strategy for artists

Historically, the process of selling goods and services fell generally into what came to be called the Sales Funnel Model. In this model businesses offered their goods and services through advertising campaigns that were largely aimed at …

Historically, the process of selling goods and services fell generally into what came to be called the Sales Funnel Model. In this model businesses offered their goods and services through advertising campaigns that were largely aimed at the constant stream of potential buyers…this was a mass sales approach. Businesses would “catch” potential buyers as they stumbled into the wide mouth of their sales funnel…it was basically a mass approach to selling. Once inside the funnel buyers were pitched on the  benefits of the businesses product using a wide range of persuasive techniques. This approach was the “law” of the sales world for decades, it was practiced by everybody from the Fullerbrush man of the ’30s to the ’50s to car and appliance sales of today. Because of the negative emotions associates with the words sales and marketing many small businesses found reasons to either not market or to camouflage their methods.

The Artists’ Funnel

Many artists  have failed to market primarily because of the stigma associated with the word. Instead, they have favored delegating that task to show or gallery venues…often with less than stellar results because the shows and galleries have been using an adaptation of the sales funnel approach. The graphic below shows how that model looks and illustrates the result which is a reliance on random sales.

funnel1 Marketing Monday: a 21st Century strategy for artists

The top level of the graphic illustrates the flow of potential buyers in the market, some of those buyers may “fall” into the funnel either by accident or intention as a result of the venue’s marketing efforts. As these potential buyers pass through the funnel some may choose to leave causing the actual number of potential buyers “falling” out of the funnel to be less than those that entered.

From this reduced stream of “falls” through the funnel a ‘flow” of potential buyers is created. At this level are the artist funnels doing the same thing the venue funnel is doing…trying to “catch” a large number of potential buyers in hopes that a few will buy.
Some artists have larger numbers of “falls” into their funnel and some fewer, in any event the sales that do occur are mostly the result of chance. The graphic illustrates that  artists’ final sales numbers in terms of dollars don’t necessarily reflect the volume of potential buyers “falling” into the funnel mostly because the artists sales are not based on conscious action on their part.

The fundamental flaw of the funnel model is that it is not far from using a roulette wheel to make sales. There is no strategy to proactively attract or engage potential buyers by using the values, and metaphors that drove the products’ creation.

The rise of communications tools, and an unwillingness to participate in persuasion based selling consumers have changed all this, as I have mentioned in earlier articles. More engagement is now and will be more and more expected. Following the old way will pretty much guarantee failure for 21st Century businesses. Artists are positioned well for this change because most if not all of our sales are made face to face and the energy we put into our work in most cases reflects our values, style and metaphors. After sifting through all the possibilities I have come up with an artist focused strategy consisting of two models that can be used separately or in concert. The first is The Attraction Model and the second is The Network Model.

Using Attraction

The Attraction Model is illustrated below and is built around sending the “scent” of your style, values and metaphors out into the world to attract those who are attracted by them. For this model to work you as an artist must do more than set your work onto shelves or gallery pedestals, you must

  • Be clear the values you instill in your work,
  • Your style must be evident
  • You must be conscious of the metaphors and stories your work tells.

attraction3 Marketing Monday: a 21st Century strategy for artists

Once you are clear about all of these you must now make sure that your work is displayed in a manner that enhances your “scent” and reinforces its story. You also need to make sure that the “scent” is attached to everything that touches your market. The more you do this the more you will attract dedicated buyers who naturally see the value of your work and more importantly be driven by price because the value is already evident. If your scent is strong enough you will also attract potential buyers who may be just newly aware of their resonance with your values, style and metaphors.

The Connection Factor

The second strategy, The Network Strategy, is more proactive and is built on you developing relationships with your buyers in all the venues your work shows up. This model requires you to engage your buyers in each venue by starting conversations and then inviting them to your network. On a broad level this strategy can be one way on your part, with you using your channels to stay in touch with each network. So if you are an Art Fair artist going to Cherry Creek you can start early using your blog to share what you will be bringing, and using Twitter, e-mail and Facebook to reach your Cherry Creek network. Using this approach you can not only keep your network informed you can also get feedback from them so you can more precisely predict what they might buy. You can also keep them informed as to your booth location, arrival time, special network only sales etc.

network3 Marketing Monday: a 21st Century strategy for artists

I hope you can see that the motive behind these two strategies is to eliminate or greatly reduce the Funnel effects randomness and help you have more predictable sales.

 Marketing Monday: a 21st Century strategy for artists

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By TheArtistsCenter

Bill Weaver is an award winning photographer, visual artist and designer. Bill has worked as an artist, designer, teacher and photographer beginning at a very young age. His mother was a prolific painter and his father was an architect/engineer and inventor. Bill began photography at the ripe age of 8 when he successfully talked his father into letting him use one of his WWII “liberated” cameras from then on he has seldom put a camera down. He was recently informed by his 89 yr old father that the circa 1930 enlarger he used through college was still available! He also started drawing and painting at an early age using everything from watercolor to charcoal. He combined his visual awareness in graduate school where he first learned his love of design.

Bill Created The ARTISTScenter.com after 15 years as a working clay artist and photographer led him to question the standard ways artists market their work. In 2004 along with 3 other artists, Brenna Busse, Erika Mock,and Frank Barr, he explored ways to educate the public about the value of hand made work and fine art. Brenna and Erika are contributing writers to The ARTISTScenter.
He also can be found on his photography blog http://www.visual-conversations.com and his photography site http://www.billweaverphoto.com.